Palm Sunday Bible Story Summary

Palm Sunday marks the high point in Jesus' earthly ministry

Painting of Palm Sunday Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem, by James Tissot.
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The Palm Sunday story comes to life in the Bible in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. The Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem marks the high point of his earthly ministry. The Lord enters the city, knowing full well that this trip will end in his sacrificial death for the sin of humanity.

Question for Reflection

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the crowds refused to see him as he truly was but instead placed their personal desires on him. Who is Jesus for you? Is he merely someone to satisfy your selfish wants and goals, or is he your Lord and Master who gave up his life to save you from your sins?

Palm Sunday Story Summary

On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus sent two disciples ahead to the village of Bethphage, about a mile away from the city at the foot of the Mount of Olives. He told them to look for a donkey tied by a house, with its unbroken colt next to it. Jesus instructed the disciples to tell the owners of the animal that "The Lord has need of it." (Luke 19:31, ESV)

The men found the donkey, brought it and its colt to Jesus, and placed their cloaks on the colt. Jesus sat on the young donkey and slowly, humbly, made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In his path, people threw their cloaks on the ground and put palm branches on the road before him. Others waved palm branches in the air.

Large Passover crowds surrounded Jesus, shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:9, ESV)

By that time, the commotion was spreading through the entire city. Many of the Galilean disciples had earlier seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. Undoubtedly they were spreading the news of that astonishing miracle.

The people of the city did not fully understand Christ's mission yet, but their worship honored God:

"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read, " 'From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise'?"( Matthew 21:16, NIV)

The Pharisees, who were jealous of Jesus and afraid of the Romans, said: "'Teacher, rebuke your disciples.' He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.'" (Luke 19:39-40, ESV)

Following this glorious time of celebration, Jesus Christ began his final journey to the cross.

Life Lesson

The people of Jerusalem saw Jesus as an earthly king who would defeat the oppressive Roman Empire. Their vision of him was limited by their own finite and worldly needs. They failed to understand that Jesus had come to triumph over a much greater enemy than Rome—an enemy whose defeat would have an impact far beyond the boundaries of this life.

Jesus came to overthrow the enemy of our souls—Satan. He came to defeat the power of sin and death. Jesus came not as a political conqueror, but as the Messiah-King, Savior of souls, and giver of eternal life.

Points of Interest

  • When he told the disciples to get the donkey, Jesus referred to himself as 'The Lord,' a definite proclamation of his divinity.
  • By riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, Jesus fulfilled an ancient prophecy in Zechariah 9:9: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (ESV) This was the only instance in the four Gospel books in which Jesus rode an animal. By riding a donkey, Jesus illustrated the kind of Messiah he was—not a political hero but a gentle, humble servant.
  • Throwing cloaks in the path of someone was an act of homage and submission and, along with the throwing of palm branches, served as a recognition of royalty. The people recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah.
  • The people's cries of 'Hosanna' came from Psalm 118:25-26. Hosanna means "save now." Despite what Jesus had foretold about his mission, the people were looking for a military Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and restore Israel's independence.

Sources

  • The New Compact Bible Dictionary, edited by T. Alton Bryant
  • New Bible Commentary, edited by G.J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carson, and R.T. France
  • The ESV Study Bible, Crossway Bible